I am so excited to share my modern and EASY recipe for tandoori chicken using the Air Fryer. These spicy chicken legs are perfectly juicy with a nice crisp char on the outside sealing in all of that flavor. The best part is they cook in only 15 minutes in the Air Fryer—less than half the time it takes in a conventional oven. The drumsticks are marinated in warming spices and creamy yogurt just like the classic dish. But you won’t believe how quick and effortless it is to make this favorite Indian dish in the Air Fryer with the same authentic taste and a lot less work.
Air Fryer tandoori chicken legs are perfect for family dinners or as the main dish at parties and get-togethers. Chicken drumsticks are inexpensive and harder to overcook so they are a good choice for larger gatherings. Believe me, just looking at the plate piled high with spiced tandoori chicken is going to make everyone hungry if the aroma filling the house doesn’t do it first.
What Is Tandoori Chicken?
Tandoori is a style of cooking from the Indian subcontinent that refers to cooking food in a clay oven, which is also called a Tandoor. Most traditional Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and vibrant spices before it is roasted in the clay oven.
Since most of us don't have clay ovens, there are other ways we can replicate the cooking methods with our own kitchen appliances. I love making tandoori chicken in the Instant Pot.
This recipe will show you how to make perfect tandoori chicken in the air fryer.
Don't have an air fryer or an Instant Pot? Make Tandoori chicken in your oven! It's simple.
What To Serve With Tandoori Chicken
Since this chicken has so much bold flavor, pair it with something milder. I usually make some vegetable biryani to serve with it. Together they are a very hearty meal.
If you want to serve this as a light lunch, another idea is to pair it with a crunchy Indian cucumber salad for a low-carb meal.
Here are some additional tips about the ingredients I used.
- Ginger Paste and Garlic Paste: Do not substitute with ginger powder or garlic powder. Check out how to make homemade ginger and garlic paste.
- Red Chili Powder: I used Kashmiri red chili powder. You can use any mild red chili powder or paprika. If you want it to have a lot more heat, use a spicier chili powder or cayenne pepper.
- Garam Masala: Use homemade garam masala as it brings out the authentic flavors
- Yogurt: Use plain full-fat yogurt for the marinade. If you are lactose intolerant, you can substitute it with dairy-free yogurt, as long as it is plain and full-fat.
- Lemon Juice: Fresh-squeezed lemon juice will have a lot more flavor than bottled.
How To Make Air Fryer Tandoori Chicken
Here's how to make tandoori drumsticks in the air fryer:
- Place the chicken legs in a mixing bowl. Pat them dry with a paper towel and remove the skin (photo 1).
- Make about 3-4 slits across the thick part of each drumstick (photo 2).
- Add yogurt, ginger, garlic, red chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, and salt. Place the dried fenugreek leaves on the palm of your hands and gently crush them rubbing the hands together. Add it to the chicken drumsticks. Add the lemon juice and mix everything together, coating the chicken with the marinade (photo 3).
- Let chicken marinate for at least 20 minutes, up to 24 hours (photo 4).
- Preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the basket with cooking oil. Place the marinated drumsticks in the basket and air fry for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F (photo 5).
- Shake the basket halfway through cooking (photo 6).
- After cooking time completes, check the internal temperature - 165 degrees F is the safe cooking temperature for chicken (photo 7).
- Serve with fresh lemon wedges and cilantro mint chutney (photo 8).
Tandoori Chicken Tips
Here are my best tips for making the tastiest Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks:
- Pat dry the chicken legs to avoid extra liquids in the marinade
- Marinate chicken for at least 1 hour, but it is best if you marinate overnight, or up to 24 hours total
- Discard any leftover marinade or brush it on the chicken before cooking
Air Fryer Tips
- You may need to increase or decrease the air frying time depending on your air fryer. Check your food frequently to prevent it from burning. This is especially important during the last few minutes of cooking. Air fryers come in different sizes, so your food might not fit the same way that recipes online show.
- Do not use aerosol spray cans to apply the non-stick spray to the basket. Aerosol spray cans usually contain harsh ingredients that are known for causing chipping in air fryer baskets.
- Shake the basket during cooking times for smaller things like chicken wings, fries, and small veggies. Do this every few minutes or halfway through cooking.
- Be careful not to press the basket release button while you are carrying the baskets. This will cause the inner basket to pull out and the outer basket will drop, which might damage it.
- Do not place anything on top of your air fryer. This disrupts the airflow and will cause poor air frying results.
- If you air fry high-fat foods, pour out the fat droppings from under the inner basket. This will prevent excess smoke while it cooks next time.
The best way to store leftover drumsticks is in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh up to 3 days. Reheat the drumsticks in your air fryer at 350 degrees for no longer than 4 minutes.
Yes, you can make chicken wings in the air fryer with this recipe. You might have to adjust the cooking time since chicken wings are smaller and will cook faster. Check on them after about 10 minutes.
The safe cooking temperature for chicken legs is 165°F. Check the temperature with a digital thermometer in the thickest part of the drumstick.
To get the charred marks, just keep the chicken in the air fryer for an additional 1-2 minutes. Make sure not to overcook them.
- Easy Tandoori Salmon
- Whole Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower With Raita
- Instant Pot Whole Tandoori Chicken
- Tandoori Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Air Fryer Tandoori Chicken
- 6 chicken drumsticks
- ⅓ cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder or any other mild red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves Kasoori methi
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- cooking oil spray
- Pat dry the chicken drumsticks with a paper towel. Then using 2 pieces of paper towels, pick up one drumstick and pull the skin down from the thickest part of the chicken to the narrow end and remove the skin. Repeat for the remaining chicken drumsticks. Paper towels will help you get a grip on the skin and remove it easily.
- Make 3-4 slits across the thick part on each drumstick.
- Add yogurt, ginger, garlic, red chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, and salt. Place the dried fenugreek leaves on the palm of your hands and gently crush them rubbing the hands together. Add to the chicken. Add lemon juice and mix everything coating the chicken with the marinade
- Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 20 minutes or you can also marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- Preheat the air fryer to 350°F. Lightly spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil. Line the marinated chicken in the basket and spray with oil.
- Air fry at 350°F for 15 minutes. Shake the basket halfway and lightly spray with oil.
- Once the cooking cycle is completed check the internal temperature of the thickest piece and make sure it's at 165°F. You may continue to cook the chicken or add 1 to 2 minutes for charred marks but make sure not to overcook.
Cook Time may vary depending on the air fryer. Always check the internal temperature with a digital thermometer and add additional cook time if needed.